Jail Beatings

Prisioners Sue Over Beatings

MJC Wins Settlement for Inmate Beaten by Cook County Jail Guards in '99

Cook County Jail inmate Cello Pettiford, represented by MacArthur Justice Center Attorney Jean Maclean Snyder, recently won more than $360,000 from Cook County to settle a federal lawsuit. In the lawsuit, Pettiford charged that he, along with other inmates, was severely beaten by Jail guards in 1999.

The settlement follows a grand jury report (pdf) released in September 2004 that found that a beating did occur and jail officials responsible for investigating the alleged beatings covered up the incident.

Updated - 01/07/2005

Grand Jury Report Finds Sheahan Office's Failure to Investigate Inmate Beatings Probable "Obstruction of Justice;" MJC Legal Team Represents Beaten Inmate

MacArthur Justice Center and other legal organizations have been calling for the prosecution of guards (pdf) involved in beatings at Cook County Jail, as well as reforms at the jail to end the mistreatment of prisoners.

A special grand jury looked into conditions at the jail and released its findings on September 16, 2004. Some of the findings included: criminal misconduct most likely occurred on Sheriff Sheahan's watch, jail employees did engage in physical abuse of prison inmates in 1999, and jail officials responsible for investigating allegations covered up evidence of the beatings.

Updated - 09/17/2004

MJC Calls Sheriff's Charges Against Civil Rights Lawyer Blatant Tactic to Deter Prisoner Abuse Investigations at Cook County Jail

The MacArthur Justice Center called Cook County Sheriff Michael Sheahan's allegations against Jean Maclean Snyder, of counsel to the MacArthur Justice Center, a diversionary tactic to distract attention from egregious prisoner abuse by Cook County Jail guards and supervisors.

Updated - 06/11/2004

Call to State's Attorney To Investigate July 27 Beating of Inmates at Cook County Jail

In a letter to Cook County State's Attorney Richard Devine's office (pdf), seven legal and community groups called for an investigation of the unprovoked beating of seven inmates at Cook County Jail by guards and supervisors on July 27, 2003. The inmates say one guard used a pool cue to beat at least two inmates; other guards put on leather gloves or rolled handcuffs around their wrists.

Updated - 08/07/2003

Cook Co. State's Attorney Declines To Prosecute Cook County Jail Beatings, Forwards Information to U.S. Attorney's Office

Cook County State's Attorney Richard Devine announced on July 30, 2003 that he will file no charges against the guards accused of beating of five inmates at Cook County Jail in July 2000. Devine also said that his office would forward the information gathered in his investigation to federal authorities, who have said that are already investigating a mass beating involving 40 guards in 1999. The MacArthur Justice Center had asked Devine to re-investigate the 2000 incident after two guards came forward and confirmed the inmates' allegations that the beatings had taken place.

Updated - 07/30/2003

Ex-Jail Guards Who Confirmed 2000 Beating Sue Over Harassment

The two correctional officers who confirmed charges that five inmates were beaten at Cook County Jail in July 2000 have filed a civil rights lawsuit against Sheriff Michael Sheahan and several correctional officers. The officers say they were harassed, threatened and forced to resign from the Jail because they refused to follow the code of silence.

Updated - 07/28/2003

Former Inmate Charges That Jail And County Cover Up Beatings By Guards

Former Cook County Jail inmate Cello Pettiford charged that employees of the Jail and medical personnel at Cermak Health Services covered up a mass beating by 40 guards in 1999. In an amended complaint (pdf) filed by the MacArthur Justice Center, Pettiford charged that the Cook County medical personnel and the Sheriff of Cook County engage in a practice of what amounts to an official policy of covering up incidents of serious misconduct and abuse by Jail guards.

Fields v. Velacsco complaint (pdf)

Updated - 06/01/2003

Cook Co. State's Attorney Launches Criminal Investigation of Jail Beatings

Cook Co. State's Atty Devine has launched an investigation of the 1999 jail beatings, following a call to action by the MacArthur Justice Center and other legal advocates. In the Chicago Tribune, a spokesperson for Devine was quoted as saying: "We were informed by the MacArthur Justice [Center] that it had gathered information into allegations of abuse by guards at the Cook County Jail. These are serious charges and will be taken seriously."

Updated - 03/07/2003

Legal Organizations Call for Criminal Prosecution of Jail Guards Implicated in Beatings; Former Guards Describe Brutal Beatings

Legal organizations including the MacArthur Justice Center, the Justice Coalition of Greater Chicago, and the Chicago Council of Lawyers called on Cook County State's Attorney Richard Devine to investigate and prosecute guards and supervisors implicated in the July 2000 beatings of five inmates held at Cook County Jail.

Two guards - one who witnessed the beatings and another who overheard a guard bragging about the incident - will describe the beatings in detail today, reinforcing the call for an end to the mistreatment of prisoners.

Updated - 03/06/2003

Five Prisoners in Special Incarceration Unit at Cook County Jail File Suit Against Correctional Officers and Top Jail Officials

The suit alleges that, during a July 29, 2000, search for contraband, the guards beat them so severely that they had to be hospitalized. The MacArthur Justice Center's lawsuit, Fields v. Velasco and Mitchell v Velasco, pending in the Circuit Court of Cook County, says that the beatings were administered in retaliation for the inmates' complaints about other beatings that had occurred earlier in the year. The lawsuit seeks damages from the officers who beat the inmates and from the jail administrators who allowed the beatings to occur.